A Rancho Cucamonga jury awarded the family of a girl sexually abused by a Chino Hills science teacher $5.6 million on Tuesday, June 25. The Chino Valley Unified School District was ordered to pay 60% of the verdict, while the teacher, John Hirsch, was ordered to pay the rest. An attorney for the family said the jury was “outraged” at the way the school handled the situation and that it could have been avoided if the school had “chosen to protect the girl instead of the teacher”. The lawsuit alleged that school and district did little upon hearing the accusations. The girl’s parents had gone to the district and reported that Hirsch had sent their daughter inappropriate romantic emails. Carl Hampton, the principal at time, ensured the parents that the situation would be taken care of. Hirsch was ordered to stay away from the girl and she was removed from his class. However, because no one checked in on his class or followed through to make sure he was staying away from her, she was back in his classroom within a few weeks.
After another student’s parents complained to the district that Hirsch had been talking about sexual conduct in his class, the school informed him that he would not be rehired for the 2010-11 school year. Even so, he was allowed to finish out the school year. An assistant principal for the school even wrote Hirsch a letter of recommendation so he could try to find a job in another district. Evidence shows that within weeks, Hirsch and the girl began having sex on and off campus. He was arrested on June 4th, 2010, the day after a neighbor reported seeing Hirsch attempting to climb into her bedroom late one night using a ladder.
Hirsch was convicted in April 2011 of felony unlawful sex with a minor and lewd and lascivious acts with a minor. He had agreed to plea bargain that dropped five other felony charges. He was sentenced to one year in jail, three years probation, and to participate in a sex offender treatment program. Hirsch must also register as a sex offender.
Schools and the districts they are a part of have a responsibility to keep all of their students safe and protected from any potential predators. The trauma faced by this young girl will most likely take years of emotional recovery.